Using story cubes for life story work

Name: Sandie Woods

Organisation: London South Bank University

Project title: Using story cubes for life story work

Our aims:

Story cubes provide a creative approach to getting to know people through words, pictures or symbols. They can be used for life story work, sharing or reflecting on experiences, developing ideas or engaging in creative writing.

Aim: To explore, experience and evaluate the use of story cubes as a tool to get to know a person as part of life story work

The activity was used with eleven Occupational Therapy students. At the end of the session the students evaluated it as a tool and provided written feedback. Students provided consent for the information to be shared

Learning outcomes:

  • Identify an experience or theme for discussion
  • Use words, images or symbols to convey personal perspectives, representations and life experiences in a succinct way
  • Communicate using words, pictures or symbols

What we did:

Each person was provided with a story cube pattern template. These were offered in different colours. The group members were asked to number the squares and include a representation of an aspect of their lives. Example included:

You-picture or image or symbol that represents you

Past- background, where grew up

Present- health, relationships

Enjoyment-hobbies, likes, dislikes

Square 5: Personal challenges- like to improve

Square 6: Future- health, dreams, hopes

Each group member decided whether they wished to complete each side of the cube, or leave some blank, and what they wished to share with the group

When the group members had finished completing the squares they folded the template to create the cube and either glued it together or used sticky tape

For the next stage they were offered a range of options:

Option 1: Each person can throw their cube in turn and say something about what they have included on the cube (they may share with one person or a small group)

Option 2: Take a story cube from the table. Find the person in the group who created the cube. Use it to discuss and reflect on what the picture/ symbol/ word means. Explore what it represents in content and meaning

Option 3: Work in pairs or in a small group and each person shares parts of the cube they have prepared or selected

Option 4: Review the cube alone as a reflective tool

What happened:

The activity was introduced to the group including the aims and objectives for the session

Resources were provided for the group:

  • Story cube templates and a sheet with instructions
  • Scissors, glue, sellotape
  • Pens, pencils, stickers with pictures, symbols, colours
  • Tables and chairs around the room

Group members started by working alone but quickly began sharing resources and interacting with other members of the group. They showed helpfulness and collaborative working as they supported each other with folding and gluing. When everyone had completed the cubes they placed them on a table (this was optional). They could choose not to share what they had prepared.

Members of the group went to the table, selected a cube and found the person who had prepared the cube. The person who had selected the cube listened as their partner shared what had been included on the cube (each person decided how much they wished to discuss/ share). This activity was then undertaken with the second half of the group.

What we created:

The group came together at the end to review their experiences of using story cubes. The evaluation is included below:


  • Useful as an activity to get to know someone and break the ice
  • Good for holding my attention and concentration
  • I enjoyed the activity, it’s a fast way to look globally at yourself
  • Good idea to work on identity
  • Nice exercise to do allowing creativity
  • It was a very good way for combining a short life story, and communicating with group members
  • I really liked the cube activity. It made me think of what was important to me without having to write it down. It was also good for seeing someone’s fine motor skills. Great conversation starter too
  • It worked well for me as a visual person to think about past, present and future
  • Enjoyed it. Simple- it can be superficial or deep and as reflective as you want it to be. There is a choice over what you share
  • A really enjoyable tool to look at these areas of life
  • Could use it in the mental health setting I work at – will give it a go
  • Made me think about what is important to me and what defines me from the past, present or future
  • An activity that I found useful and positive. I enjoyed reflecting on positive aspects of my life particularly my hopes for the future

Things to consider:

  • Could provoke anxiety in terms of making decisions or discussing aspects of life
  • To be used in groups with people with mental health difficulties you need to consider the possibility that some people might put things related to traumatic experiences that can be a trigger for themselves and other members of the group
  • Makes you realise how thinking about yourself is difficult and reflection can evoke negative emotions when doing the activity with patients
  • It’s a lot of big questions to ask about yourself and can be hard to sum up in a small picture.
  • Can be unnerving to share these thoughts with others
  • Tended to produce positive conversation today but could be negative responses
  • It may evoke negative feelings and experiences from the past but up to the person as to how much information they want to put onto the cube

 Suggestions for delivering the session:

  • I would suggest that after everyone hands in their boxes only half of the class randomly picks up a box. When they have spoken the other half can swop around
  • I like that you can talk about one side of the cube if that’s all that can be tolerated or move on if wanted

What we created:

Templates can be prepared in a range of sizes and may be cut out in advance to save time or assist anyone who has difficulty in using scissors

The themes for inclusion on the cubes can be varied according the aims of the session and the needs of the group

The cube could be created on a device (tablet) if preferred

Sufficient time should be provided at the beginning and end of the session should anyone require support

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